A favorite event for July is the Civil War Days in Duncan’s Mill. The 19th Annual Reenactment is July 14-15. This is Northern California’s largest American Civil War reenactment and one of the largest reenactments west of the Mississippi! This amazing event encompasses living history at its best with civil war period-clad individuals performing battle scenarios and offering historical information about their equipment and character. As you walk around to visit the camps the players are dressed in authentic gear and speak to you as though the Civil war is the here and now. It is not a capital offense to visit the Yankee camp and walk to the Confederate camp so no worries. Deserter Parking is good, the ground is uneven, the bleachers can be crowded but the whole experience is worth your time. A word of warning for the very small, the battle scenes are very noisy. You will be able to meet honest Abe Lincoln, he hates ‘Abe’ even his wife called him Mister Lincoln. The guy that plays Lincoln looks more like Lincoln than Lincoln, he is truly impressive. There are some food and drink available but it would be wise to pack a hamper and bring a blanket to picnic on. I think you can leave it all in the car during your visit then retrieve it later. The site is near Duncan’s Mill which is very close to the ocean, this means it can be cold and windy or hot so pack accordingly. In town there are tourist shops and a State Parks center, a few restaurants offer food and there is an excellent coffee shop.
One place to visit in Duncan’s Mill is the Casini Ranch Campground, just across the Russian River on your left. They will allow a limited visitor pass, they are very picky about driving too fast, dust and other comfort-for-the-residents issues. All of which is great if you are staying there. I think your pass allows a visit to the little store and a few minutes to feed the ducks, lots of fun. If you’re lucky there will be some ducklings to watch. There is a swimming area available for day-use so check it out for that feature. There is no lifeguard and you are swimming in the Russian River so don’t swallow. The rocky beach is nice to sit on and gives us shade if you are averse to sun. The beach is also a good spot for a picnic and using that inflatable dolphin you got for Christmas last year.
A great side trip is seal watching at the mouth of the river. You can drive past Jenner and pull out on the dirt lot on the ocean side of Highway One. Bring binoculars to view the seal colony that likes to sun on the sandbars. Juveniles and baby seals play in the river as mom snoozes in the sun. There are also close-up opportunities across the river at Goat Rock State Beach. Drive back to the river crossing at Bridgehaven, then up the hill on Highway One to the Goat Rock turn off, it is well marked. There are docents to answer questions and to help visitors keep a safe distance from the seals. There is a fee for using the pit toilets. The ocean there is very dangerous. Many lives have been lost at Goat Rock over the years and people getting caught in the surf is common. Never turn your back on the ocean. If you are close enough to get caught, close enough, is twenty yards above the wet sand. If you should get pulled out, do not panic and do not try to swim in, the water will take you out a short distance behind the waves, then swim parallel to the beach, the waves will take you back in to crawl back to dry sand. Easy to say when you are high and dry, the ocean is about fifty degrees this time of year, cold enough to suck up your energy and leave you sapped of strength inside twenty minutes.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Mycological Society. Look for his column each week in The Community Voice.